Monday, August 18, 2014

Do you source your Genealogy?

A great problem in Genealogy is the inability by Genealogist of the present and the past to document their work. Without the ability to show on what you base your lineage you are failing others that may want to use your genealogy currently and in the future. Not to mention failing yourself.

In the past there has been a great deal of genealogy that has not been sourced. Just because it is in a book or magazine does not make it right. There are numerous examples of research that was wrong that was passed from one publication to the next. Eventually it was excepted as fact, because it appeared in so many different places. The saying use to go that a professional genealogist could have you related to anyone you want as long as you have the money. No George Washington did not have children.

The Daughters of the Revolution had this problem in their past and now face the challenge of correcting it. Many patriots were confirmed as such without documentation. Today to join you must document your lineage to the patriot. In many cases lineages that were accepted in the old days are now rejected due to lack of documentation and for being wrong.

Ancestry appears on the scene in the late 90's and has nothing to do with documentation. I am always struck by the number of lineages on Ancestry that have no sourcing what so ever. Then on top of it 100 people claim that lineage as correct based on what? Either we are to lazy to source or we don't know how. Not real sure which one it is or it may even be something else.

I run into people all the time asking me how do I get them to correct a record on the Internet. They become very angry and don't understand how this could be allowed to happen. Then they have no problem using a lineage that has no documentation as correct. What's wrong with that picture?

My advice for all of us is to document and source our research. Try to identify at least three records to prove each event and fact. Make sure the document you are using is the best available record to use as a source. Census records do not prove birth or locations. Bible entries do.

Today's computer technology allows us to do the sourcing. If you are on Ancestry or Family Search sites now allow you to source your material. It is even put in the proper format for you to enter in your genealogy program. Don't be lazy do it. Nothing is more frustrating than when you come back to line after not working on it for a while and you wonder, "how did I come up with that?". Imagine future genealogist trying to figure out the same thing. How did they come up with that.

As always I appreciate your ideas and input. Keep hunting.


Leah said...

I try to add sources, for my own information; as well as, an aid for other researchers. Sometimes I contact tree owners who have posted incorrect information, and I find that if I state my information clearly and concisely with links to online sources, corrections often follow. New researchers, and those researching in an unfamiliar region, tend to add information about persons with the same or similar names, who are really not connected to their tree, and then link Ancestry sources. I have seen cases of this copied multiple times. These are difficult, if not impossible to correct. I always verify anything I find in an online tree, before adding it to my database.

PE Islander said...

Thank you for this insightful commentary re: sourcing. I will confess that while I have an extensive family tree project (over 20,000) I don't necessarily source my information and I have probably assumed some information as correlated (erroneously assume as fact). It is easy with the internet to get sucked into not verifying the source (as it is a lot of work that supposedly the internet was to cut down for us). I have discovered this to be an issue when there are multiple "john smith" in a family line. I use Myheritage and try to talk to the actual family member/owners of the trees to verify information as the repetition of names gets confusing at times.
You have challenged me to be do better!

Ben G said...

When I first started I was so overzealous, and naive I didn't bother to record sources. I didn't know I should! I think many genealogists start out the same, which creates problems later on. I also have records from several other people who have a source on every person. Every source is numbered, and there is no information in those numbers. Meaningless sources, Ugh!

I have an idea. Let's petition for Ancestry and Family Search to update their programming to require sources before finalizing a name in the family record. Even if its your own record, you have a birth certificate to back it up. There should be minimum requirements to go with it. You can have several ancestors pending sourcing, but they won't appear for others to see until you verify a source.

Then source ranking. Every source should be ranked by multiple genealogists, so as the database of sources fills up we can all look at their reliabity. Don Juan's book of celebs gets multiple 1 stars, and eventually is stopped being used. The U.S. census get 4 stars for being reliable, but to proceed with caution. Vital records get 5 stars for being the most reliable.

What do you think? It would deter some newbies, but it would also start them off right, and genealogy could slowly start to get back on track. Anybody know how to do that?

Vickie Wagner said...

1Good post as always Derek. Sourcing has to be addressed with the flood of people doing genealogy now. Just because you see it on the net doesn't make it the truth. Filling out applications for prospective members for several lineage societies if I hear, "Ancestry has it like that, isn't that enough proof/", I think I am going to scream. As newbies we all have this things we should of sourced better. When I was little, my Grandpa's cousin asked me one day if I knew how she was related to the family. I can see that conversation in my head so well. I have relived it several times. I could even show you the chair she was sitting in and how she was sitting. I wrote down some minor things, but didn't write down the important stuff, like who was her mother and what was her last name. None of my cousins could remember Lillian's maiden name and how her mother was my grandpa's half sister from a different father, and the mother had abandoned Lillian's mother and her brother when she remarried to my great grandpa. It took me a few years to get that one pieced together. If I only would of known at 16 to write these things all down and where they came from. And yes Derek, this is my crazy great grandma Ada Shippey. :)